On Thursday, April 24, Jessica Berman gave the opening keynote address at the French Modernist Studies Association inaugural conference, held at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University, Paris 3. Berman, Director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities and Professor of English, presented, “Re-Routing Community: Radio, Colonial Voices, and Transnational Listening,” which explored the intersections and interactions among writers from India and the Caribbean, developing an alternative version of modernist community that is transnational, transmedial and often inter-linguistic.
The conference explored the notion of community in the modernist period, honoring Berman’s book, Modernist Fiction, Cosmopolitanism and the Politics of Community (2001) as a significant event in the scholarship of modernism and a point of departure for current work. As the conference organizers put it, “more than a decade after Jessica Berman’s landmark work on ‘the politics of community’ in modernist fiction, we seek to explore the various ways in which communities were configured across genres and artistic media, but also to acknowledge the grounds of their historical and cultural specificity. We hope that this will lead us to distinguish various versions of the communal, from the ideal to the empirical, from the utopian to the everyday, from consensus to dissensus.”
In her address, Berman argued that the development of radio in colonial spaces such as the British Caribbean and colonial India shows us new lines of literary influence as well as important correlations, linkages and waves of transmission that move not only from colony to metropole and back again, but also between and among colonies in an often overlooked, multidirectional way.